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Neural Mechanism of Visual Associative Learning in Bees


Visual learning entails the formation of associations between visual cues, requiring the integration of separate visual submodalities, as color or pattern, in forming visual memories. Surprisingly, widely dissimilar organisms as insects and humans share neural mechanisms of visual associative learning. Yet, memory is distributed throughout the primate brain, making electrophysiology difficult and leading researchers to use organisms amenable to invasive techniques with comparable visual learning capabilities to that of primates, such as bumblebees. The aim of this study is to characterize bumblebee visual input to the hippocampus like centers, the mushroom bodies (MBs). Intracellular recordings in conjunction with cell-staining techniques will be used to classify the segregated visual input MB layers as color, motion, or pattern visual pathways. Next, multi-unit extracellular recordings will be used to determine what visual stimuli are detected by MB cells. Finally, behavioral lesioning experiments will be used to determine whether visual input to the MBs are necessary for visual learning. By investigating visual input to the MBs, this proposed study will represent an initial step in revealing neural mechanisms of visual associative memory.


Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.